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7 Biggest Challenges for CIOs and How to Deal With Them

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The role of сhief information officers (CIOs) has transformed over the years, extending beyond traditional technical responsibilities. Currently, CIOs are facing numerous issues, such as heavily distributed workforce, economic hurdles, and adopting cutting-edge technologies.

In this article, we’ll cover these and more challenges facing CIOs today as well as measures you can take to navigate them.

What are CIOs biggest challenges today?

CIOs are key leaders in organizations who are responsible for managing and overseeing the information technology strategy and infrastructure. CIOs play a vital role in aligning technology initiatives with business objectives and ensuring that technology supports and advances the organization’s overall goals.

However, the following challenges may become obstacles to effectively carrying out your duties as a CIO.

7 major challenges for CIOs

Further in the article, we’ll take a close look at each of them and provide handy ways on how to deal with these CIOs’ challenges.

1. Economic uncertainty

Organizations are increasing their IT budgets. Foundry’s State of the CIO Study 2023 showed that 91% of CIOs anticipated either an increase or no changes in their IT budgets in 2023. However, it’s still challenging for CIOs to effectively manage IT budget spending because of economic uncertainty.

The current drop in economic growth significantly increases financial risks. The World Economic Outlook from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) predicted that economic growth will fall to 2.8% in 2023 from 3.4% in 2022. They also predict the growth to remain about 3% until 2028, making it the lowest medium-term growth projection since 1990.

A possible way to overcome the challenge:

Create budgets for various scenarios. When you plan an IT spending budget for a year, make sure to remain flexible. You might need to take into account the dynamic nature of economic conditions. Thus, instead of having a single rigid budget, you can create various scenarios for best-case, worst-case, and intermediate scenarios to be able to adjust to the economic situation.

2. High expectations of the board

More than half of digital initiatives fall behind the expectations of CEOs and other executives, according to Gartner’s CIO Agenda 2023. This can potentially strain collaboration between the CIO and the executive board.

Failed expectations of the board is one of the top cios challenges

There are several possible reasons for that. First of all, CEOs and CIOs may prioritize different initiatives. While the CEO is waiting for the results of one initiative, the CIO may work harder on the other. 

Secondly, CEOs may not understand how much time a certain initiative requires. This problem may arise when CEOs and CIOs haven’t properly communicated the timeline of the initiative and its interdependencies with other initiatives.

Last but not least, CIOs may lack the talent to complete a certain initiative on time. For instance, the organization may fail to recruit the required specialists or lose employees with the requisite qualifications.

One way or another, when the members of the executive board don’t see the results they expect, they may become less willing to fund the CIO’s initiatives.

Possible ways to overcome the challenge:

Recognize priorities: Pay close attention to what senior leaders are discussing to identify the areas they care and worry about the most. Try to determine specific financial and business outcomes the board of executives desires and prioritize digital initiatives that align with those objectives.

Set realistic expectations: Collaborate closely with senior management to set achievable expectations before launching digital initiatives. This requires transparent communication with the board regarding project timelines, milestones, and anticipated results. It’s important to ensure the board understands that implementing digital initiatives is a long-term endeavor that rarely brings quick business outcomes. 

Find allies: Try teaming up with a business executive to work on digital initiatives together. With a partner, you can better understand the organization’s needs and identify the right initiatives to pursue. When looking for an executive to team up with, prioritize those who:

  • Have a digital-first mindset 
  • Desire growth rather than maintaining the status quo
  • Prioritize results over rules
  • Prefer what’s good over what’s better
  • Focus on engaging with the market rather than solely cutting costs
  • Can invest time and effort

Working together on identifying the initiatives with the highest priority and implementing them can speed up the process.

3. Hybrid workplaces

Unfortunately, many employers still fail to fulfill the technological demands of their hybrid employees. According to the study “From Surviving to Thriving in Hybrid Work” by Unisys, 49% of employees report spending one to five hours per week resolving IT issues, negatively impacting their productivity. In addition, hybrid workers often encounter inconsistent access to the organization’s data and systems, communication gaps, and collaboration difficulties.

At the same time, accommodating employees across different work environments is one of the biggest challenges faced by CIOs. First, you need to make company resources easily accessible to employees while protecting them from malicious intruders. Secondly, you may lack visibility into the remote workforce’s activity, contributing to security risks.

Possible ways to overcome the challenge:

Implement proactive IT support: You might need to reconsider your approach to IT support. Thus, instead of reacting to issues as they arise, consider implementing a proactive data-driven IT support model. This means using data from the applications employees use to anticipate and prevent IT problems rather than simply addressing them when employees report them.

Create digital workflows: Consider creating digital processes and workflows available to all distributed teams. Before anything else, we suggest providing workflows for facilitating remote access and connectivity, enabling employees to connect to the corporate network and access resources from anywhere. This includes using virtual private networks (VPNs), remote desktop solutions, or cloud-based platforms.

Additionally, try focusing on streamlining processes that facilitate communication and both synchronous and asynchronous collaboration. This might require implementing unified platforms that bring together messaging, video conferencing, document sharing, and project management tools.

Adopt IAM and UAM: To secure an organization’s data assets and systems, consider deploying identity and access management (IAM) tools, including two-factor authentication (2FA) and secondary authentication. In turn, user activity monitoring (UAM) and RDP session recording tools can help you enhance visibility into remote workers’ activity and notice risky behavior in a timely manner.

Request access to the online demo of Ekran System!

See how Ekran System can help you secure the hybrid work environment in your organization.

4. AI tools adoption

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a disruptive innovation that most organizations will be adopting sooner or later. With the help of AI, you can simplify and accelerate many tasks. For example, Ekran System’s AI-based user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA) module can help you automatically detect potentially malicious activity within your IT perimeter. However, adopting AI poses a considerable challenge for CIOs.

Increasing adoption of generative AI exposes organizations to security issues, such as confidential data leaks. When users combine generative AI tools with your organization’s sensitive data and intellectual property, there is a risk of that data being used to generate responses for people outside your organization. At the same time, when using generative AI, you risk using someone else’s intellectual property. This may entail legal risks, such as copyright infringement or trade secret misappropriation. Addressing these and other risks related to AI tools adoption is one of the top issues facing CIOs today.

A possible way to overcome the challenge:

Establish comprehensive guidelines on the use of AI. Consider creating policies for employees on what information can and cannot be sent to AI tools. These policies should also outline what kinds of information employees can use in their jobs. It may be especially useful to teach employees how to use generative AI responsibly during onboarding or cybersecurity awareness training.

To further enhance the security of using AI, you can leverage the Artificial Intelligence Risk Management Framework developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

5. Talent acquisition and retention

Having the right amount of IT talent in an organization is crucial for CIOs to complete digital initiatives successfully. Deloitte TMT Center’s survey of technology industry leaders revealed that almost 90% of respondents considered recruiting and retaining talent either a moderate or major challenge.

There’s a high demand for high-skilled roles like system architects, cybersecurity specialists, and AI specialists. Many companies, including technical giants like Google and Microsoft, are looking for tech workers with these talents, and it’s hard for smaller organizations to win them over.

Retaining tech talent is also challenging. According to a survey by Gartner, IT employees are more likely to quit their jobs than non-IT employees. 

Possible ways to overcome the challenge:

Set priorities. Define the job roles you need to fill the most. These are the positions that have the biggest influence on the successful implementation of your digital initiatives. Make sure to cooperate with the HR department to analyze candidates’ needs for these roles and develop strategies to position your organization as an appealing workplace.

We suggest improving your organizational culture, reconsidering compensation rates, and providing learning opportunities and more flexible work options.

Hire candidates inclined to stay. Retention efforts start at the earliest stages of hiring. During the application process and candidate screening, try choosing candidates less likely to change jobs. Furthermore, consider candidates that correspond to your organization’s values, vision, and mission.

Deliver for your employees. Consider regularly reviewing employees’ pay to ensure it’s fair and competitive. We recommend keeping employees informed about what’s new in the company and gathering their feedback. Your employees’ needs may change over time, so make sure you notice those changes and address them.

6. Regulatory compliance

Compliance with IT security requirements is a persistent issue and a daunting challenge for organizations. CIOs are often responsible for compliance or share responsibility for it with Chief Compliance Officers or Data Protection Officers.

CIOs need to keep up with changes to regulations currently in effect and the ones that will soon take effect. This is especially tough for organizations that operate in multiple regions or industries since they have more laws, standards, and regulations to comply with.

Factors such as the use of personal devices by employees, an extensive supply chain, and the utilization of IoT systems in the organization can complicate the compliance process even further.

Possible ways to overcome the challenge:

Map applicable regulations. We suggest determining the full scope of laws, standards, and regulations your organization must adhere to, as well as those that are advisable to follow. You may need to consult lawyers and cybersecurity officers to determine what requirements apply to your organization.

Identify and close security gaps. Consider conducting a self-audit to identify vulnerable areas in your organization’s security. For self-audit, you can use official IT compliance audit checklists, guidelines, and questionnaires: 

Once you know what security controls are lacking to meet compliance requirements, you can take action to implement them.

Leverage dedicated solutions for compliance activities. Dedicated technology can enhance your compliance efforts while reducing overhead. With solutions like Ekran System, you can:

With the help of these functionalities, you can streamline the implementation of numerous security controls required by industry laws, regulations, and standards.

Discover the potential of Ekran System!

Leverage Ekran System’s comprehensive functionality for ensuring IT security compliance.

7. Evolving cybersecurity threats

The State of the CIO Study 2023 by Foundry reveals that 70% of CIOs expected to focus more on cybersecurity in 2023. Many would agree that organizational cybersecurity is the responsibility of CISOs rather than CIOs. However, in many organizations CIOs and CISOs tend to work together to enhance threat management efforts. 

With hybrid work, companies tend to have more complex infrastructures than before, since employees need to connect to corporate networks from various locations and need more resources to be productive. And the more complex the infrastructure, the harder it is to maintain strong cybersecurity and protect the organization from hackers’ outside attacks.

Evolving social engineering techniques, like phishing or vishing, can target an organization’s employees and eventually lead to insider threats. Moreover, your employees themselves can pose security risks to your organization.

Possible ways to overcome the challenge:

Secure access to corporate resources. Consider implementing security best practices, such as establishing a zero-trust architecture and leveraging two-factor authentication (2FA), to only grant access to the corporate network to verified users. 

Develop comprehensive policies. You might need to create and enforce clear policies on secure remote connection and usage of the organization’s resources, especially cloud services. Consider conducting regular cybersecurity awareness training to make sure the company employees understand and follow them. 

Deploy dedicated threat management tools. You can significantly strengthen your organization’s cybersecurity with the help of technological solutions. For instance, RDP monitoring software can help you detect unauthorized remote access, and alerting and incident response solutions allow you to promptly identify and contain cybersecurity threats. 

Insider Risk Management with Ekran System

How can Ekran System assist CIOs?

Ekran System is an insider risk management platform that can enhance the corporate IT infrastructure’s integrity and protection and address many of the CIOs’ information technology challenges. Ekran System’s wide selection of security features allows you to streamline and boost your organization’s efforts in meeting IT security requirements, securing hybrid work environments, and managing cybersecurity threats.

By leveraging Ekran System’s rich functionality, you can successfully:

Conclusion

Challenges for CIOs in today’s IT environment may leave you feeling overwhelmed and uncertain about where to start to overcome them. In this article, we’ve covered measures and best practices that can help you in the CIO role.

By embracing the discussed measures and deploying technological solutions to automate some of the tasks, you can effectively deal with and overcome the majority of obstacles in implementing your IT strategy. Ekran System is an insider risk management solution that can help you handle many of the biggest IT-related challenges facing CIOs and enhance the protection of your organizational infrastructure.

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